07:05, June 01 320 0

2017-06-01 07:05:08
SFO stalls on decision to file charges in Barclays Qatar probe

The Serious Fraud Office has put off a decision to file charges against Barclays and several of the bank’s former top executives over their handling of Middle Eastern investments that rescued the bank at the height of the financial crisis.

The SFO will miss the May deadline – the second one this year after it missed a similar one in March – saying it would withhold the announcement until after the General Election on 8 June.

However, a source said the deadline was more of an estimate and that the May date was subject to change. It is understood that the SFO is expected to make its decision by mid June.

A source close to the case told The Lawyer that this delay was more to do with the fact that the SFO regarded the announcement as politically sensitive than the Conservative party threat to abolish the SFO if it wins the general election next week.

The source added that while it was likely the pledge would affect future SFO investigations, it would most likely not affect ongoing ones such as this.

The SFO was investigating whether the bank, which was on the verge of collapse at the height of the credit crisis in 2008, gave preferential terms to Qatar as an outside funder, which it needed in order to avoid being bailed out by the state. At the time, Barclays maintained that being propped up by the public purse would threaten its independence.

It has been well reported that over the course of that crucial year, Qatar’s then prime minister, Sheikh Hamid bin Jasim bin Jabr al-Thami, who was also the chair of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, propelled £6.1bn into the bank, thereby staving off the need for government ownership.

There are questions over whether the bank properly disclosed fees paid and whether the bank secretly loaned Qatar money to persuade it to then reinvest in the bank.

Several of the bank’s former chief executives John Varley and Bob Diamond, as well as Roger Jenkins, head of the private equity group, have been interviewed under caution. The case is the only one that could see a UK bank formally charged.

Simmons and Simmons is acting for the bank alongside Peter Burrell of US firm Wilkie Farr & Gallagher.

Barclays declined to comment.